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Oxford Dictionaries Names ‘Climate Emergency’ Its 2019 Word of the Year

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Nov 21, 2019

Oxford Dictionaries, the maker of the Oxford English Dictionary, the definitive record of the English language, announced yesterday that its 2019 word of the year is “climate emergency.” The term is defined as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.”

The fact that this is the word of the year is a harsh truth about the situation humanity is currently in, but the selection process of the word harkens to the importance of the climate crisis — each word short-listed was linked to environmental preoccupations, including “climate action,” “climate denial,” “eco-anxiety,” “extinction,” and “flight-shame.”

“When we were looking through the evidence, it was just clear that issues relating to the climate were running through all the different lexical items we were working with,” said Katherine Connor Martin, an editor at Oxford Dictionaries, to The New York Times. “It reflects it was a real preoccupation of the English-speaking world in 2019.”

Recent years have seen a string of hip words claiming the title — among them 2018’s word of the year, “toxic”; “youthquake” in 2017; and “post-truth” in 2016. The word of the year aims to highlight “a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months […] a winner is shown through usage evidence to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year and to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance,” according to the Oxford Dictionaries’ website. We can only hope that the 2020’s shortlist includes “revolution” and “self-reckoning.”

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